How the flu vaccine works in your body
Like clockwork, every year, the flu makes its way into our lives, leaving many of us under the weather, Aching body, headaches, sore throat, chills, and fever… just a few of the effects to look forward to.
Long before the flu arrives, you’ll hear your doctor advising, “Time to get your flu shot”.
You’ll also hear many people say that the flu vaccine doesn’t work, so what’s the point of getting it?
First, let’s understand the flu:
Influenza (if we’re being technical about it) is an illness that affects the respiratory system. If you have the flu, your nose, throat and sometimes your lungs are affected. The flu doesn’t discriminate, in other words, you could be super healthy but still get the flu. That’s because this disease mainly spreads by tiny droplets when people cough, sneeze, or talk. There’s even the possibility of getting the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it – and then transferring it when you touch your mouth or eyes.
And now, the vaccine:
Now that we’re all in the grips of Covid-19, we understand a little better how these viruses work and mutate (change/develop). The flu is similar to that. Meaning that the flu you had last year isn’t the same as this year’s version. Every year the flu changes, it is different, so every year scientists have to create a new flu shot that matches this year’s flu. So, medical experts have to be on the ball to keep up with the different flu strains. Unfortunately, sometimes a strain takes even the medical experts by surprise and the vaccine won’t work against it.
Typically, how it works:
Scientists, through predictive research, create a vaccine that will more or less “match” this year’s flu virus. Like a cocktail with lots of different ingredients, the vaccine is made up of many different snippets of various flu. The flu shot is given before flu season starts. Now it’s in your body and your immune system sits up and goes, “Hello!”, It realises that there’s this new substance around, so it reacts by fighting back to destroy these intruders. Essentially, the vaccine trains your system if this year’s seasonal flu comes knocking.
Can I get the flu from the flu shot?
The answer is NO!. You cannot get the flu from a flu shot. The vaccine is made up of “dead” bits and pieces from viruses. But what could happen is you could have mild symptoms in response to the vaccine, so perhaps achy muscles, or a low-grade fever.
So, I can get the flu vaccine for COVID-19 too?
On paper, that would work, right? But unfortunately, not. The vaccine is designed to only build antibodies against the virus(es) included in the vaccine. Vaccines that protect against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the Coronavirus. The flu vaccine that you will receive is a quadrivalent so it contains four types of flu viruses.
What’s so bad about the flu?
Some people experience manageable flu symptoms, but there are many others, particularly pregnant women, children, and older people, who could benefit from the vaccine as their immune system may be more compromised or weaker than normal. The flu can be relatively mild or potentially fatal, leading to complications like pneumonia or making existing medical conditions, much worse. By the way, the flu shot is safe for pregnant women so don’t be put off by misinformation!
This article is for informational purposes only. Always check with your doctor or medical practitioner about any health concerns, before embarking on any fitness or nutrition programme, and usage of any medication.